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Literary Journals: The Necessary Dragons and How to Conquer Them

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Total Disclaimer: I don’t think literary journals are the monsters of the Literary World that need to be felled with this one blog post. I think the opposite, in fact. I’m saying that they’re daunting, and they can be scary when you try to conquer them and publish your work.

I’ve seen and even work with plenty of smaller journals, though. I can say that these people have your best interest in mind. These brave people spend who knows how long building their platform, getting their voices out there into the void, organizing the submissions they receive, and either rejecting or accepting work just like everyone else. It’s a journal. Both acceptance and rejection comes with the territory. It’s not like they want to reject you, if they do. They just got started! They need work! They want to help you, but you have to want to help them too.

In the grand scheme of the Writing World, literary journals are a valuable asset for showcasing your work and gaining experience while also connecting with other writers and various professionals. It’s a community, and community is necessary. Today, you don’t even have to travel the high seas to enter a new community of fellow writers. You have the Internet, and you recognize these essential outlets. Rejection, however, seems to get in the way of your efforts.

If you know me, I like to think of things in Anglo-Saxon literary terms sometimes. Imagine you’re the hero who needs to explain to the King why you’re the best candidate for the job (think of it as an interview with very high stakes involved). Lit journals are the mead hall. You stand in that hall, showcase your work, and (in the modern sense) sit at your computer banging your head against your desk, waiting. The King has the final answer. And when it comes to lit journals, editors have to think about their hall, their community. They look at your piece and wonder if it’s the right fit.

And it’s when you receive rejection after rejection that the journals start to look like dragons bent on destruction rather than the hall of community they’re meant to be. But you can’t have that mindset.

I’m going to introduce to you the Saxon Method. The purpose of this method is twofold, with three basic steps. It helps not only to build up your knowledge of whatever community you research, but also to build up yourself, your brand, your voice in the Literary World. Here are three steps you can take now.

Do Your Research. For Everything.

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I have a few different ways of doing things, but you obviously need to find something that works for you. Personally, I liked to write things down physically. The name of the journal, their deadlines, the genre they’re looking for.

But it’s also imperative that you keep in mind what the journal is trying to do for you too. If they say they want your work, they’re not lying, even if you receive rejection. You need to pay attention to the hints they give. It’s not even research anymore. It’s like finding the puzzle pieces, building up to a story that fits just so.

So you write things down. Stir up some ideas. Know and understand what you can give. Then look at what they give to you. Some places post inspiration on their website with the keywords and vibes they look for. Others offer resources for upcoming deadlines for other journals. In either case, it shows they want to help by giving you as many outlets as possible for what you have to say. So do your research. Understand your voice, but take the time to understand the voices of others too.

Be Prepared to Do Some Slaying.

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So you start from the bottom. You plant the seed while finding your voice and researching theirs. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you probably also have a list, physical or otherwise, of places you’re interested in. This is where your research starts paying off, where you know what these journals want, so you’re prepared come in with the right credentials.

This doesn’t mean you won’t receive rejection. You’re still learning after all, but you only fail if you give up. The key with this second step is that twofold aspect of this method comes into play. For one, the more you write, the more you find your voice-how and what you write. You’re discovering what makes your writing unique. Second, you’re branching out, using your research as a cornerstone. As you work, you learn how to incorporate your writing style into a variety of forms, proving to journals how versatile your writing can be and how you’re committed to learning and communicating with them.

Instead of submitting the same piece to journal after journal, hoping something sticks, you build yourself, your writing, and your communication. You can look at what journals offer and start tailoring yourself to the community. Then you start submitting with purpose.

Build While You Wait.

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Like I said, this isn’t a foolproof method. Rejection is something all authors go through. It’s honestly very important for a writer because good feedback gives you a chance to improve. But after doing your research, finding your voice, and building that communication, what do you do?

You don’t just sit around.

I can tell you, you’ll probably always be finding your voice. For your whole life. As long as your alive, you can improve, and as along as you can improve, you’ll have time to look back and see how things have changed. Yes, you’re already looking at your writing in new ways, pushing yourself to see what you can do, but in the meantime? You have to keep going. You can’t improve if you stop. Submit to a journal? Find another one you like and want to research! Just starting out with writing? Find some resources! A little overwhelmed about all that’s out there and your place among all the writers? Just pick one place and start there. The worst thing you can do is not do anything at all.

So tap into your imagination. Keep building yourself up. I promise you, the more you work, the less frustrating things get. Literary journals stop looking like dragons.

You’re on your way to making sense of it all.

Want to know more? Click the LEARN MORE button at home. You’ll find some helpful links to my own work in journals (which I hope to eventually post here too!). You can find my work at Ariel Chart, the Cedarville Review, Nailpolish Stories, Bluepepper, and 50 Word Stories! Also look for me in Anti-Heroin Chic, Sledgehammer Lit, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice later this year!

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